The night of July 26, 1988 will always stick in my mind. My cousin Amy called my home, to tell me my Dad had been killed in a construction accident.
Dead at 57, my contractor father and his brothers had spent their entire lives working on buildings. In this case, my Dad was working with my Uncle Neil on a new home just outside of Seattle, WA. He made a wrong move, and fell only about ten feet – and poof, he was gone! So many things we missed being able to share together and my three children have grown up without having the benefit of knowing their grandfather.
Now construction is a dangerous business, I think we can agree. However, most construction falls do not have to result in deaths, or serious injuries. Whether you are going to be doing the work yourself, or hiring it done, it is always prudent to err upon the side of caution.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently enacted tougher fall-protection rules, designed to protect the health and safety of roofers and other construction workers. While OSHA has announced a phase-in period giving most contractors until September 15 of this year to comply with the new rules, some states have gone above and beyond the federal rules and are enforcing them now.
Falls are always near the top of safety concerns in the workplace, and “we want to make sure we protect workers the best way we can”, says James Kruger, compliance officer for Minnesota OSHA.
In general, the fall protection rules require employees working six feet or higher above the ground to use fall protection systems such as guardrails, safety nets, personal “fall-arrest” systems and safety monitoring systems.
Most falls occur when no protection is being used, says Tom Shanahan, associate director of risk management for the National Roofing Contractors Association.
Accidents do happen, and all too often. One death in Minnesota, last year, was of an employee who fell 15 feet from a pole barn.
I lost a loved one to a fall and his death probably could have been avoided, if today’s fall protection standards would have been adhered to. Don’t think it can’t happen to you, or someone who is working on your new building. Be safe, the life you save, could be your own.